Protests mark international tribal peoples' day

Activists say attacks on tribal people in Philippines are linked to opposition to 'destructive development projects'
Protests mark international tribal peoples' day

Tribal people take part in a march in Manila to protest what they described as the intrusion of destructive development projects in their communities. (Photo by Maria Tan) reporter, Manila
August 9, 2019
Activists marked the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples with demonstrations in several cities around the world to raise awareness over alleged threats to tribal communities brought about by "destructive development projects."

In Manila, hundreds of tribal people, pro-environment and human rights activists, braved monsoon rains as they marched in the streets to denounce alleged attacks on tribal people who voice opposition to projects affecting their communities.

Kerlan Fanagel, spokesman of the tribal group Sandugo, said the government should "listen to the cries of tribal people" and stop programs "that aim to evict us from our ancestral lands."

According to Katribu, an alliance of Philippine tribal groups, at least 59 tribal people have been killed since 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte came to power.

Katribu spokeswoman, Kakay Tolentino, claimed those who resist "aggressive development projects" are being intimidated, harassed, and killed.

On Aug. 6, a human rights advocate who works in a tribal community in the northern Philippines was shot outside his house in Lagawe, in Ifugao province.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance said the attack on Brandon Lee, a 37-year-old paralegal volunteer for the Ifugao Peasant Movement, was "an attempt to silence" those who speak for the rights of tribal communities.

Call to end mining operations
Simultaneous protests were held in Australia, El Salvador, and Canada on Aug. 9 to call for the non-renewal of a large-scale gold and copper mining concession in the Philippines' Nueva Vizcaya province.

The demonstrations denounced what has been described as "25 years of environmental destruction and exploitation" that allegedly threatens ethnocide against tribal communities in the Philippines.

"The years of exploitation and the environmental destruction mining has caused has earned the ire of the community, environmental advocates, and even the local government officials," said Douglas Booker, general secretary of the International Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines Canada.

In June, local authorities in Nueva Vizcaya province declared the mining operations of Australian-Canadian owned OceanaGold illegal.

On July 1, tribal people put up a "people’s barricade" to hinder operations. On July 25, a local court threw out a company bid allow full operations to continue.

As a result, OceanaGold has declared the full suspension of its mining operations in the province.

As of Aug. 8, OceanaGold’s share values had dropped 23 percent since the start of the year.

Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE, said they noted "numerous rights violations" experienced by those manning the barricade, such as "red-tagging," surveillance, and home invasions.

Company data revealed that some 87 billion pesos (about US$1.7 billion) worth of copper, gold, and silver were mined by OceanaGold from 2013 to 2018, while only 4.7 billion pesos (about US$90 million) or only 5.4 percent were provided in salaries, taxes, and development projects.

Environmental activists and tribal groups have called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate OceanaGold for alleged "violations of environmental, civil-political, socio-economic, and other human rights" in the Philippines.

Mark Saludes contributed to this report.

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